Wednesday, November 16, 2016

if it ain't there, make it up

In the wake of the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States, there is something strangely apposite about the rising up of Edward Brooke-Hitching's "The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps." Don't worry, it's mostly pictures, but the tale it tells is recurringly simple ... the next time anyone says, "you couldn't make this shit up," think twice: It is more than likely that someone already has made it up.

Of course, you may think an ancient and fable-prone religiosity created men and women who were nine feet tall or sea monsters and it was all so terribly long ago and far away. But consider:
... California continued to be depicted as an island on maps until 1747, when King Ferdinand VI of Spain was forced to issue a decree that ‘California is not an island’
 Or, if you thought Bernie Madoff had cornered the market in weaving fabulous tales:
And then there is the lord of liars. In 1822, Gregor MacGregor strode into London and pulled off the greatest con of the 19th century, if not of all time. The self-proclaimed ‘Cazique’ of Poyais sought investment in his newly established South American country. Two ships of British colonists set sail, having sold their worldly belongings to buy Poyais land from MacGregor. On arrival at the coordinates provided, they discovered only a malarial swamp. Only a handful of the 270 settlers made it back to Britain alive.


  1. We do indeed have an astonishing capacity to make things up, sometimes to swindle others, but often enough to secure our own comfortable beliefs.

    1. Did the Buddha attain Buddhahood, or was nirvana just His imagination as well as many else's?